SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The homeless population in Utah may be able to have access to the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as next week.
The Fourth Street Clinic will begin offering doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to those experiencing homelessness.
The Salt Lake County Health Department allocated 80 doses of the vaccine to Fourth Street Clinic on Friday, increasing access to the vaccine for vulnerable populations in the county.
The clinic serves vulnerable and low-income populations in Utah, the majority of which are experiencing homelessness.
Janida Emerson, CEO of Fourth Street Clinic, says the first wave of vaccines will be at the clinic
downtown for those 70 and over.
“It’s difficult enough for someone experiencing homelessness to access basic health services, like getting vaccinated,” Emerson says. “Asking someone without transportation to drive to a county vaccination site ultimately means they won’t get the vaccine. We asked the county to allocate doses of the COVID vaccine to increase access to those most affected by the virus.”
Fourth Street Clinic will only offer the vaccine to patients 70 and over at their downtown site. The following week, the clinic’s Mobile Health Care program will take the vaccine to the homeless resource centers and other locations to clients 70 and over.
Emerson says any remaining vaccines will be tiered for those with underlying health conditions, any clients at the homeless resource centers willing to be vaccinated, any unvaccinated staff members at community partner sites, and household members of Fourth Street Clinic staff providing direct patient care. Clinic staff received their first round of the vaccine at the end of December.
Fourth Street Clinic says they have performed more than 10,000 COVID tests in 2020, playing a key role in mitigating the spread of the virus among those in community shelters and camping outside.
The added workload put a strain on providers and staff at Fourth Street Clinic; Janida Emerson says the clinic is trying to secure additional staffing to help vaccinate the state’s most vulnerable population.
“We really need to focus on widening the pool of who gets the vaccine, rather than double up
on what the county is already doing,” said Emerson. “This will really be an ‘all hands on deck
approach, but we’re excited to play our part in this.”
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